When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, then they often become items that are tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and memories so your treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value.
Friday Night Family Heirlooms: telling their stories…
Grandmama McKinley’s Teapots
I was always fascinated with these teapots as a young girl, but I never served tea with them – I just might have to make a pot of tea now!. The teapot with the cups are only marked Made in Japan, so it was probably a newer one from the fifties. It actually has a ceramic tea infuser under the lid. Sometimes I’m amazed at how these teapots have survived through the years in the many moves they’ve seen.
Grandmama’s Burgundy Teapot
Many of the McCormick teapots were given away as premiums by the company – did grandmama pull this teapot out of a bag of flour – sugar – tea? My mother remembers that many of the kitchen glassware items came from those bags. It would have come from one bought at cousin Ulma McKinley’s general store in Siloam. I have a hard time understanding how they never broke in those bags of flour and sugar; I’d love to actually see how they were packed. They were given to you when you bought certain items like sacks of flour, but I suspect it might have been when she bought tea. No Southern kitchen was ever without loose tea to make “sweet tea”with.
The teapots were made for McCormick by two companies, with the earliest being the Bennett Pottery Co. – a Baltimore company which lasted until the depression. The Hall China Co., of East Liverpool, Ohio was soon later manufacturing for them and they continued producing for McCormick through the early 1990’s. My grandmother’s teapot was made by the Hall China Co. Most were sold with a white ceramic infuser to hold the loose tea, but there was never one for grandmama’s burgundy teapot.
After reading the company history on McCormick I discovered that the company only begin selling tea in 1905 – their early sales were in spices when Willoughby McCormick bought the F. G. Emmett Spice Co., of Philadelphia in 1896. It was Willoughby who turned the McCormick company into a hallmark company of what we know today.
By 1910, they were the earliest producers of tea in the easy to use gauze pouches. What a convenience, but I wonder how popular they were? Buying tea in a bag vs the individual bags had to have been a costly difference. I know my grandfather would never have bought those individual gauze bags! Before machinery was developed to stitch the individual bags, the tea bags were hand-sewn by local church groups as piecework fundraisers.
This company was so involved in selling tea that they actually opened a tea room on the 7th floor, where the public could come and enjoy tea served in their teapots. The Ye Olde McCormick Tea House was open well into the late 1980’s still serving tea by women dressed in hooped skirts and petticoats, and serving it free. I was quite intrigued by the idea that a company set aside an area in their company building to offer such a service – and free. How ingenious; I bet it encouraged tea sales!
I wish I had more memories on these teapots, memories of having tea with grandmama, but I don’t. But I can visualize her sitting alone in her farmhouse kitchen having afternoon tea. I’m sure she would have drank it alone as granddaddy was strictly a black coffee drinker – no “pinky” drinking teacup for him!
after writing this mama tells me now that grandmama hated tea, she said it tasted like medicine to her! How ironic, a Southern woman not liking sweet tea! And she didn’t drink coffee either! Mama said she actually brought the teapot home one day from cousin Ulma’s store as she thought it was pretty! There were always free give-a-ways when you bought bags of flour and sugar.
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© 2016 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco